Gazing at stars

The Starry Night in broad daylight. Impossible?

It was an overwhelming experience. Sitting on bench, gazing past the cypress at swirling clouds, the bright moon and the twinkling stars. It is the Starry Night as I see it and the starry night as Van Gogh saw through his window more than a century ago…in an asylum at Saint-Remy.

Great minds and great artists are always referred to as “mad” maybe because they see more and beyond what our normal mortals’ eyes can perceive. Vincent Van Gogh, the Dutch post-Impressionist painter, may be a little madder though. He had his “bouts of insanity” throughout his life and passed away at a young age of 37 with the knowledge that only one was sold out of the couple of thousand art pieces he created in just over a decade- 900 paintings, 1,100 drawings and sketches, that included portraits and self portraits, landscapes and wheat fields, cypresses and sunflowers. It was too soon for him to go to witness his success as an artist and a master.

Van Gogh’s interest in art started at an early age and continued dabbling in it until he decided to become an artist. It wasn’t until his late twenties when he started painting, and at 32, he painted his first major work- a somber toned The Potato Eaters. When he moved to France a year after and discovered the French Impressionists and the sunny Provencal landscape, his canvas ignited with bright hues and he developed his unique and highly recognizable style. His masterpieces were created in the last couple of years before his demise in 1890. 

From admiring Van Gogh’s artworks in books to seeing the masterpieces real time, I consider myself lucky. Traveling has afforded me the chance to gaze at the world’s greatest Impressionist pieces- the Potato Eaters and more at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the La nuit étoilée (The Starry Night- over the Rhone), The Church at Auvers and the Self Portrait at the Musee D’Orsay in Paris, and (another) The Starry Night with blue swirling skies at the Museum of Modern Art and the Sunflowers at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and a version of the Irises at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. 

It was this visit at the ArtScience Museum that brought these wonderful memories back and be reminded that I am blessed to have seen the original pieces. While I hopped from one gallery to another around the globe to gaze at Van Gogh’s artworks, the ArtScience Museum experience was different. Van Gogh Alive – the Exhibition allowed me sit still and gaze at his masterpieces anew as they were projected around me. The walls, columns and floors were the changing canvases. It was an immersion in a brilliant world of color, movement and light.

The Self-Portrait, Vase with Twelve Sunflowers, Vincent’s Chair with His Pipe….and the Starry Night. Yes, the clouds did swirl and the stars twinkled brightly long before sunset…in the ArtScience Museum. 

Van Gogh Alive – the Exhibition will run until November 6, 2011. For more information, visit: http://www.marinabaysands.com/Singapore-Attractions/ArtScience-Museum/

Published in SunStar newspaper on September 15, 2011.



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